Sit Like an Egyptian

The Egyptian Seat  Hartwell

The Monday Photo

This is Hartwell’s Egyptian Spring, but it’s not Egyptian. Some think it isn’t even a spring, but water runs through it which seems to feed a horse trough on the other side of the lane, just a little further down the slope.

The official listing describes Egyptian Spring as a seat, but the water enters it via a small channel and leads into a rectangular sump in the front middle of the floor. From there, another shallow channel takes the overflow to the front corner of the spring where it flows off and into a road drain. I think the water then goes into the horse trough across the lane.

You can see the sump and the drain in the photo. Water can be also be heard and sometimes seen a little further down the lane.

The seat is commonly thought to be Egyptian because of the frieze of hieroglyphics across the front, though it’s just made of brick and stone, covered in stucco.

I can’t really translate hieroglyphics (though I tried) but the frieze is said to state that the seat was built in the 13th year of Victoria’s reign. The second cartouche or oval ring seems to hold characters that phonetically spell out “Victoria”, and I think the number 13 is on the far left hand end.

The Greek inscription above is said by some to say “Water is best”, but putting those letters into an online translator produced either “Left with two” or “Left-handed two.

Well, I can’t translate Greek either, but that didn’t seem right. A bit more digging found that the Greek text is a quote from Pindar, a poet in Ancient Greece who lived from around 518 to 438 BC. It actually says: "Greatest however (is) water”.

The Egyptian Seat/Spring was erected in 1850 or 1851, and designed by Joseph Bonomi the Younger. He was one of those Victorian men who were good at many things; a polymath.

Bonomi was an artist, a sculptor, a draughtsman, a museum curator and an Egyptologist. He went to Egypt where he made drawings and watercolours of their pyramids and ancient temples, learning Arabic and wearing local dress. One sketch is labelled “Fragment of a red granite sarcophagus”. It’s drawn to  ¼ scale and the hieroglyphics are carefully drawn.

I didn’t think I’d ever mention Egypt or an Ancient Greek poet in a North Bucks Wanderer post, but it’s just another one of the rabbit holes I find myself in when doing research.

If you want to see the seat/spring yourself, it’s about a third of a mile down a narrow lane off the A418 in Hartwell. The lane is signposted “Hartwell House”, and “Lower Hartwell”; bear left after the bridge.

There’s a place to turn round a little further down the lane, which is a cul-de-sac. Other follies are available.

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The Cathedral in the Fields

Cathedral in the Fields  HillesdenHillesden church, "The Cathedral in the fields"

I’d been out on the bike, to cover the first anniversary of the unveiling of the David Bowie statue in Aylesbury; I posted about it last week. Now it was late afternoon, and I had other things to see some miles away; the sun was dropping in the sky.

From Aylesbury, (see my post earlier this week) I headed South through Stoke Mandeville. My destination was Hillesden. It's in the opposite direction, but I was out on the bike, and I like to take an indirect route, riding along the back roads as much as possible.

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Bridge to Nowhere

Claydon House bridgeThe bridge. Claydon House is amongst the trees in the distance.

You might just have wondered why there’s a bridge beside the road, between Calvert and Botolph (pronounced ‘Bottle’ by locals) Claydon.

You may have imagined that the road’s been diverted since the bridge was built, as at Thornborough bridge (Scroll down at the link)

I don’t think it ever has. Instead, it forms a nice focal point for the last of the three lakes in the landscaped grounds of Claydon House. I also suspect that it hid the road at a point where you wouldn’t expect to see trees if there really was a small river there, instead of a minor stream.

The grounds were created between 1763 and 1776 for the impressive West front of Claydon House. This house was built by Ralph, the 2nd Earl Verney between 1757 and 1771 to rival Stowe House, a few miles away on the other side of Buckingham.

Some rooms in the West front are big enough to take the whole of the large three bed house I grew up in; roof, chimneys, the TV aerial and all, with ease. Claydon House is a Grade 1 listed National Trust property, open to the public.

Claydon House and churchClaydon House and church.

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Summer is on the Way

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. Today we start the long slow climb back into summer.

When we reach the Summer Solstice in June, the day will be nine hours longer. we can go out for the day, come home, and it’s still light. Here’s some of the things you can find when you go out and about as the days get longer, in the North Bucks area.

Bourbon Tower  StoweThe Bourbon Tower in the grounds of Stowe House (or if you like, Stowe School) was built as a keeper’s lodge in 1741, but was renamed the Bourbon Tower after the exiled King Louis XVIII of France visited Stowe in 1808.

Don’t be disappointed, but the tower has nothing to do with biscuits. The chocolate biscuit that's so good for dunking was named after the European royal House of Bourbon. Louis XVII was a member of that house.

Stowe is open to the public via The National Trust.

Olney sign and museumYou will not see many photographs of this side of the Olney town sign, perhaps because the sun lights it for just a few days every year and it's much easier to take one of the other side.

The sun has to be both far enough North and high enough in the early evening sky to clear the rooftops on the High Street, and light the sign. This photo was taken on the 16th of June. The 2019 Summer Solstice will be on Friday 21st of June.

In the background is the Cowper and Newton Museum. I've written more the museum here.

Aylesbury from Oving HillAylesbury Vale, from Oving, on the road between Pitchcott and Whitchurch. I think that’s Waddesdon Manor on the wooded hills in the distance.

Oving HillWhile I was at Oving to photograph the view over the Aylesbury Vale. (See the previous picture) when I heard a great clattering and rumbling noise approaching. After a couple of minutes, this steam roller towing a living wagon appeared around the corner. It was built in 1916, and is called Jupiter. I managed to take several pictures as it chuffed and rumbled past me.

It’s the unexpected things like this that sometimes makes going out so rewarding.

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Mr Cowper and Mr Newton

Cowper's Alcove3Cowper's Alcove in 2010.

Whenever I head West out of Olney towards Stoke Goldington, I know that the road passes through the stone posts of the gateway at Weston Underwood. Set in a long, high stone wall, they once held iron gates.

Another set of gates were further up, perhaps at the small crossroads where the remains of the 15th century cross still sits. The gates were closed at night, as the road between was formerly a private one.

To the left, and South of the private road as you come from Olney was the old Weston House, (demolished in 1827) and to the right was Weston Park, extending half a mile North.

The public road passed behind Weston house. Perhaps Cross Lane, that heads roughly South from the crossroads, is all that’s left of it.

Opposite Cross Lane is Wood Lane. It takes us up the side of what was once Weston Park, and along the far edge of the park, to Cowper’s Alcove. This mid 18th Century folly is where the poet William Cowper used to sit and compose much of his poetry during his walks from Olney, then later from Western Underwood.

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